Industry’s digital challenges bring new opportunities for engineering firms

Bentley Systems CIO Claire Rutkowski (left) and Stacy Sinclair, head of technology and innovation at Fenwick Elliott, who are both speaking at a forthcoming FIDIC webinar on digital issues.

Ahead of a forthcoming FIDIC webinar on digital issues, Claire Rutkowski of Bentley Systems highlights some current challenges and opportunities facing construction professionals.

There are a lot of challenges facing AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) professionals. The first one – there’s too much work and there’s not enough people to do the work. So, that puts a lot of pressure on the people who are still working in the industry. Another challenge is that the advancement of technology and modern design tools means that there’s a very steep learning curve for those professionals left in the industry.

It’s also a challenge that all kinds of people have left the industry. They either left because they were tired or they left because of the ‘great resignation’ after the pandemic. There’s just been a whole lot of churn and change in the industry, so that leaves a lot of challenges for the people who are now coming in – there aren’t just as many people to learn from.

Of course, each one of those challenges is kind of an opportunity, because as people leave that opens the door for people coming into the industry. So, there is much more of an opportunity to find a job, even if you need a flexible schedule, as now the world really is your oyster.

Both technology firms and the companies that use them are doing a much better job of training people. They have to, because attrition has been high and turnover is happening so fast that it’s really important to get really good at onboarding people. What’s also really exciting is because there are new design tools and new technologies available, people get to learn new skills.

I am a huge proponent of remote working and I think it really does help as it cuts down on commuting, it cuts down on all the emissions that go with that, not to mention all of the time.

There’s also things like the use of drones and remote inspection to help with safety and not require people to hang off the side of a bridge or abseil down a dam to look for cracks – so that certainly helps with societal responsibility and safety as well as making sure that people are keeping an eye on assets, but not visually.

Bentley is moving to a much more datacentric way of looking at the information produced by all those design files firms use. I think that the iTwin experience and iTwin Capture and iTwin IoT will all help facilitate remote working and virtually dispersed teams as well.

So, if I’m an engineering firm, if I can leverage that information somehow, there’s a whole new line of business out there. It could be that as an engineering firm, not only do I design and create the digital twin during the design process, but I also offer as a service to operate that digital twin and keep it evergreen through the lifecycle of the asset. So, I think there’s lots of new different business opportunities for engineering firms.

Claire Rutkowski is the senior vice president and CIO champion at Bentley Systems and will be speaking at the forthcoming FIDIC webinar, BIM and digital technologies – optimise traditional ways of working or make a paradigm shift? on 4 April 2023.